Attorney: My language, call it jargon if you wish

I’ve seen this story repeated in a few old sources, but I don’t think it’s well known in our present circle of Chinook Jargon partisans.

One reason it’s interesting is because this is a rare record of CJ’s use in the courts.

Chinook Jargon won

From the Seattle star (Seattle, Wash.) 1899-1947, March 16, 1899, page 3, columns 2 and 3:


Attorney Clark Secures the
Acquittal of a Client.

Every old-timer in Tacoma or, in
fact, in the state of Washington,
either remembers or had a personal
acquaintance with Attorney Prank
Clark. Clark has been dead some
eight years, but during a conversa-
tlon yesterday between attorneys his
name came up, followed by the nar-
ratlve of this incident in his career:

“Twelve years ago,” said the law-
yer telling the story. “Clark had as
a client a man arrested on the
charge of cutting timber on gov-
ernment land. The United States
wax represented by two federal at-
torneys, brought from a distance,
either Portland or San Francisco,
if I remember aright. When these
lawyers came into court there fol-
lowed behind them a porter who un-
loaded upon the table fronting the
judge’s bench armful after armful
of books. Clark strode in with three
volumes of law under his arm. The
jury was composed entirely of log-
gers and ranchers. Opening the
caae the imported lawyers delved
deep into the tomes of law before
them and cited decision after de-
cision leading on the case on trial.
Then using language, one-half of the
words of which were too extensive
for the jury’s understanding, they
launched into their argument.

     As the United States attorney fin-
ished, Clark arose, picked up one of
his law books and, without opening
the volume, threw it aside. The
next book shared the same fate.
The third was opened only to be
cast aside. Clark then squared
himself to the jury.

Nesika tillicums!” he commenced
and then in a flow of Chinook jar-
gon went on to plead his client’s
cause. There was not a man on
the jury but what understood every
sentiment Clark conveyed, whereas
the hlghflown language of the im-
ported attorneys had been utterly
lost on them.

In vivid Chinook, Clark painted a
word picture of the trials and tribu-
lations of the settler in the wilds of
Washington forests and the desper-
ate effort necessary to maintain wife
and babes.  And because his client
had hauled a wagon load of cord
wood to the village store to trade
for food, he had been arrested, im-
prisoned, and his family deprived of
his support.

There was possibly not one in the
jury box but what had at some time
been in the position Clark pictured.
Every sympathy in them was arous-
ed.  Tears trickled down their rug-
ged cheeks as Clark’s Chinook flowed

The lawyers from afar were awake
to the disadvantage they were being
placed under. An objection waa en-
tered to Clark’s use of Chinook or
any other language which the op-
posing counsel could not understand.

[“]Your honor,” answer[ed] Clark, “the
jury here is to decide this case. The
eminent gentlemen for the prose-
cution have’ used language ao grandi-
loquent that not one of the jury has
understood its purport. I am speak-
ing to them in the simple talk of
the western frontiersman, under-
stood alike by both Indian and white
man who traverse and have been in-
strumental in the development of
this northwest. My language, call
it jargon if you wish, explains to
the jury, and if I mistake not, also
your honor, the situation. I have
but a few more words to say, and,
with the court’s permission, will
continue in Chinook.”

The permission waa granted, and
Clark’s client was acquitted without
the jury leaving their seats.—-Tacoma